Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler may have recently been the recipient of $126 million contract that is driving up the going rate for Colin Kaepernick, but chances are he’ll never see most of it after the way the recent NFL draft shook out.
Okay, so that declaration (like the headline) is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bears did make a huge value pick in the sixth round when they took his soon-to-be backup and possible heir-apparent in San Jose State’s David Fales.
Dedicated readers at BASG know how much I’ve been hyping Fales over the last two years, and my own evaluations are based mostly on the eye test and the esteem I hold him in after he resurrected my alma mater’s football program, but after he started to fall from “potential first round pick” to “late round flyer” I knew whoever had the brains to select Fales was getting a steal wherever he went.
Chicago is about as good a landing spot as any for the Salinas native. Fales will be tutored by the same coaching staff that made Josh McCown (the former Raiders wash-out who the 49ers cut in 2011 in favor of Scott Tolzien) look like a legit NFL starter. He gets to spend time learning behind a veteran, who by all accounts is already taking Fales under his wing.
In Fales the Bears get a proven winner and natural leader, a guy whose teammates gravitate toward him and for whom they put out maximum effort. He owns every important passing record in San Jose St. history, thanks in large part to a high football IQ, an accurate arm and his highly competitive nature.
The knock on Fales leading up to the draft was the he had below average arm-strength. That didn’t seem to hold him back at a skills competition last year at an Elite 11 passing camp in Oregon, where he beat out fellow camp counselors Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Taj Boyd. More likely his status as a San Jose State quarterback is what had ignorant evaluators dying to downgrade him.
If you want a more trustworthy evaluation of the Spartan signal-caller, check in with Jim Harbaugh, who rated Fales as “top five” in his draft class. (For the sake of full disclosure, Harbaugh and Fales are represented by the same agency, but whatever. Since when does Harbaugh have time to deal out false hype to guys not on his roster?) If you need any more proof that he’s got a bright future, we can always go back to this little tidbit: David Fales led San Jose St. to a top-25 ranking. Let that sink in.
One team that might regret not holding out for Fales is the Oakland Raiders. I’m a 49er fan and still I was clamoring for Reggie McKenzie to target this guy last year. Yet he burned a second-round pick on Derek Carr.
I’m trying my best not to turn this into a Carr vs. Fales thing, but it has played out so much that way within the Mountain West fan community over the last year and half that it’s impossible to avoid. Carr is a very talented kid who might turn out to be the right pick for the Raiders. Then again, he might not.
Again, I can only fall back on the eye test. The first was when Fales flat-out out-dueled Carr in the Spartans’ upset win over Fresno St. last November. Both quarterbacks threw for a ton of yards, but Fales made all the throws he needed while a Carr interception was the turning point. It’s also worth noting that Carr had a superior receiving cast that day and all last year, as he was constantly relying on Packers’ second-round pick Davante Adams to make circus catches in order to keep the ball moving.
Fales, on the other hand, was missing his best receiver from 2012 due to injury, and had a supporting cast full of freshmen. The Spartans’ best receiver in 2013, Chandler Jones, was a free-agent pickup by Cleveland after the draft.
There’s also the small matter of their performances against high-level competition. When Carr finally got around to playing a legitimate BCS-level program in the Las Vegas Bowl, USC’s defense brought him plummeting back to Earth. Under duress all day long, Carr was very uncomfortable in the pocket, with poor throws and an interception putting the Bulldogs in a big hole early. He finished with a QBR of 30.4 with a paltry 216 yards in 54 pass attempts.
Contrast that to Fales, who made his FBS debut against eventual Rose Bowl champion Stanford in 2012. While he didn’t put up huge numbers that day, Fales was very efficient, showed remarkable poise in the pocket against possibly the best defense in the country and had the Spartans tied with the Cardinal at 17-17 late in the game. Were it not for a late second quarter drop by a receiver who would have walked into the end zone, the Spartans would have gone into halftime up two scores and very possibly won that game.
I sincerely hope both quarterback have successful careers ahead of them, but its my unabashedly biased opinion that Fales is better equipped for the step up in competition.
-A FEW MORE SPARTAN TIDBITS-
The first Spartan to come off the board was Bene Benwikere, who joins one of the best defenses in the league after he was selected by Carolina in the fifth round. “Big Play Bene” likely slipped because of mediocre 40 times, but he did notch the best vertical leap among cornerbacks at the combine. He is also probably part of a record of some sort, as he was the third player from his high school (Junipero Serra High in Gardena, Calif.) to be drafted in 2014 alone.
Former teammates Marquise Lee (wide receiver, Jacksonville) and Paul Richardson (wide receiver, Seattle) were both second round picks. For good measure, another former wideout teammate, Robert Woods, was taken in 2013 by Buffalo. No wonder Benwikere had a knack for coverage since he first stepped foot on campus.
Undrafted free agent signees included:
— Noel Grigsby, wide receiver, Oakland (STEAL)
— Chandler Jones, wide receiver, Cleveland (HUGE STEAL)
— Keith Smith, linebacker/safety, Dallas